Clinton Mulls Plan for Lafayette Park
Would rename it after JFKS widow
By Paul Bedard
President Clinton, who dramatically tightened security by
closing Pennsylvania Avenue in fronr of the White House, is
considering a plan to redesign Lafayette Park and name it after
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.
The plan also calls for Pennsylvania Avenue to go through an
underground tunnel between 15th and 17th streets. The four-lane
tunnel, fortified to contain an explosion, would cost hundreds of
millions of dollars, according to administration officials.
Both concepts are part of a proposal drawn up by a prominent
architect and friend of the former first lady. Lafayette Park
would be ringed with an iron gate that could be closed at night
or for presidential events.
The blueprint drawn by John Carl Warnecke, who helped Mrs.
Onassis to renovate Lafayette Square to its current appearance,
would place fountains around the park and grass and bushes on
"By embracing a design for a more beautiful area that will be
attractive to the president and by making this a special
beautiful plaza for all those visiting and viewing the front of
the president's house, this will resolve most of the security
problems those responsible for the White House safety now face,"
Mr. Warnecke said.
White House spokeswoman Mary Ellen Glynn said "Warnecke
was consulted by the Treasury Department," which conducted the
security review that led to closing Pennsylvania Avenue.
In a letter and report to The Washington Times urging the
newspaper to promote the project, Mr. Warnecke -- also the
designer of the Kennedy Memorial Grave in Arlington National
Cemetery and the Senate Hart Building -- said "the president
needs help and guidance" in the administration's search for ways
to make the White House more secure, yet open to the public.
His plan to build a "Grand Plaza and Promenade for Beauty and
Safety of the White House in Memory of Jacqueline Kennedy
Onassis" is one of several under study by the White House, said
an administration official.
Mr. Clinton was close to Mrs. Onassis until her death last year.
First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and the president backed a 1993
plan to push a special exhibit in Washington to honor the former
first lady's efforts to clean up Lafayette Park, according to Mr.
At times, Mr. Clinton has modeled his presidency after the
Kennedy "Camelot" era and even spent part of his 1993 vacation on
Martha's Vineyard with Mrs. Onassis.
On Saturday, Mr. Clinton bowed to warnings from his security
advisers and shut down the two-block-long stretch of Pennsylvania
Avenue in front of the "people's house.
Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin said yesterday that the plan
was "a very good and balanced approach" that ensures security for
the White House against car bombs while continuing to allow
Presidential adviser George Stephanopoulos said "the president
wanted Pennsylvania Avenue to stay open, but in the interests of
the security of the White House and following the recommendations
of the Secret Service, he felt it had to be closed."
A similar Secret Service plan to shut down the avenue was
presented to President Reagan after he was gunned down in front
of the Washington Hilton Hotel, according to administration
Mr. Reagan, who survived the would-be assassin's attack,
endorsed the project but said if would not begin while he served
as president. "Not on my watch" he said.
Mr. Warnecke's proposal is an expansion of his 1962 plan to
preserve the character of Lafayette Square by keeping the town
houses and building red brick federal structures behind them. The
style later went on to dominate modern architecture.
In his letter to the Times, Mr. Warnecke said: "A similar
opportunity now exists for President Clinton with the tunnel and
plaza project. The tunnel will solve the major security and
traffic problem of bombing threats in front of the White House.
At the same time the plaza will greatly enhance the beauty and
quality of the main entrance to the president's house.
The recent rash of violence against the White House -- last
year's plane crash and gunfire, for example -- prompted Mr.
Warnecke to revive his plan. However, it wouldn't have stopped
any of the recent attacks on the facility since none came by
In a Jan. 18 letter to Mr. Clinton, he said a redesigned
Lafayette Square and Pennsylvania Avenue Front of the White House
would stand as a memorial to Kennedy and Mrs. Onassis, who died
of cancer last year.
After the April 19 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma
City, Mr. Warnecke revived his Plan. In a second letter and
report to Mr. Clinton, the architect said:
"The most ideal target for terrorists is still the home and
office Of our president, the White House. This is one of the most
important symbols of our democracy and our Country. This is the
house that belongs to all the people. This is not only a physical
symbol of our country, but this is a symbol of our way of life
that our forebears created and the way we continue to live our
Mr. Warnecke's plan has been endorsed in part by the National
Park Service, which has produced a 20-year plan to eliminate
roads around the White House from I Street to Constitution
Avenue. That plan, initially revealed by The Washington Times,
would also put Pennsylvania Avenue in an underground
THE WASHlNGTON TlMES
Pennsylvania Ave. Closure || Peace Park